Friday, December 5, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Dec 5: Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday,....Receivership Thursday

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3500 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, Superintendents, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, business leaders, education professors, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 regulatory agencies, professional associations and education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for December 5, 2014:
Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday,....Receivership Thursday

Upcoming PA Basic Education Funding Commission Public Hearing
Wednesday, December 10, 2014, 10 AM - 12:00 PM Lancaster; location TBA
* meeting times and locations subject to change

"The school district’s president, Rob Chabot , stated, “We’ve eliminated textbook purchases, pre-school transportation, staff through attrition, we reduced the summer school programs, teacher tuition reimbursement, after-school activities, athletics, fine-arts programs.” This brings about the following question: How much do we have to take away from our children until they receive the message that their lives don’t matter? The quality of K-12 students’ education often depends on their ZIP code. Money matters in education. Children attending well-resourced schools perform better."
Daily Pennsylvanian Guest column by Melanie Young | Do black lives matter in education funding
Daily Pennsylvanian By MELANIE YOUNG December 3, 2014
P rior to the shooting, Michael Brown was an 18-year-old incoming college freshman. At his funeral, his stepmother Cal Brown spoke about how excited he was to be a freshman at Vatterott College, a for-profit career training institute. Brown would have started classes two days after his death. Brown’s college plans were no small feat. According to the Schott Foundation, in 2009-10 the national graduation rate for black males was 52 percent, as compared to 78 percent for white, non-Latino males . 2010-11 was the first school year that more than half of the nation’s black males graduated with regular diplomas four years later. Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, lamented the pain she felt over not getting to see her firstborn child start college after fighting so hard to make it through high school.
Over the past few months, the conversation surrounding Brown and Ferguson has shifted from immediate reactions to the shooting itself, to highlighting the underlying social dynamics that exist in low-income black majority communities. Take, for example, the fact that the demographics of the Ferguson police do not represent the community. In 2010, blacks made up 67 percent of the town’s residents — however, only three of the 53-officer department were black. Although the majority of Ferguson’s residents are black, Ferguson’s police chief and mayor are white. Of the six City Council members, only one is black.

Court dates:
On Thursday, York County Judge Stephen Linebaugh scheduled the following court dates related to the state Department of Education's request to have a receiver appointed in the York City School District.
10:30 a.m. Monday: The court will hear arguments on three petitions to intervene, from the unions representing district employees, various parents, and the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.
10:30 a.m. Thursday: The court will hear arguments on the York City School District's motion to stay the case.
10 a.m. Dec. 15: The hearing on the state's petition is scheduled to continue.
York City School District asks court to temporarily halt receivership petition
Officials asked court to temporarily halt the state's petition, while others want to intervene
York Daily Record By Angie Mason @angiemason1 on Twitter   12/04/2014 11:30:54 PM EST
The York City School District wants the court to temporarily halt the state's petition for receivership, while several groups, including some district parents, have asked to have a voice in the matter.  A hearing was held in York County court Thursday on the state education department's request to have David Meckley, now the district's recovery officer, named receiver. That would give him the authority to move forward with a proposal to turn all district schools into charters without the school board's consent.  Judge Stephen Linebaugh scheduled dates to hear arguments next week on various motions filed in the case, with the hearing on the state's request set to continue Dec. 15.

Delco judge rejects state request to oust Joe Watkins as Chester Upland receiver
Delco Times By Vince Sullivan, on Twitter
POSTED: 12/04/14, 5:17 PM EST | UPDATED: 8 SECS AGO
MEDIA COURTHOUSE >> Judge Chad Kenney on Thursday denied a petition filed by the Pennsylvania Secretary of Education seeking the removal of Joseph Watkins as receiver of the Chester Upland School District.  In the petition, Secretary Carolyn Dumaresq cited a lack of substantial communication from Watkins in recent months regarding substantial changes to the district’s two-year-old financial recovery plan. While Kenney agreed that communications need to improve, he believes that Watkins and his administrative team haven’t been given enough time to implement the plan since Watkins was appointed receiver in December 2012.
Six hours of testimony featured comments from Dumaresq, Watkins, Chester Upland’ Chief Financial Officer George Crawford, Superintendent Gregory Shannon and a financial consultant from Public Financial Management who helped create the recovery plan.

Judge: Embattled Chester Upland chief can keep job
KATHY BOCCELLA, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Friday, December 5, 2014, 1:08 AM POSTED: Thursday, December 4, 2014, 1:02 PM
After a contentious hearing, a judge ruled Thursday that Joe Watkins could remain the state-appointed receiver of the troubled Chester Upland School District, turning down state officials' surprise request to oust him.  The state Education Department had cited Watkins' alleged failure to improve the finances and student performance in the poverty-stricken system, but Delaware County Court President Judge Chad F. Kenney said he did not see a reason to "break up the team" when the district was showing some progress, two years after Watkins was appointed to his $144,000-a-year post.  The hearing at the Media courthouse was convened in response to the state's request to remove Watkins and replace him with Francis V. Barnes, a former state secretary of education.  Kenney ordered both sides back into court Jan. 8 for a progress report on the district's plan to bring more students back to traditional schools from charters, a centerpiece of its recovery efforts. He said he wants district and education officials, including acting Secretary Carolyn Dumaresq, to go over all aspects of the plan together "to see if this is real."

Auditor says Education Department uncooperative with Tomalis probe
Trib Live By Brad Bumsted Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014, 1:39 p.m.
HARRISBURG — The state Department of Education has not cooperated with state auditors in an examination that includes a look at special advisers such as former Education Secretary Ron Tomalis, who remained on the payroll after stepping down from the Cabinet post last year, the auditor general said Thursday.  Eugene DePasquale, the state's fiscal watchdog, told reporters at an informal news conference that although Gov. Tom Corbett's administration generally has been cooperative in responding to audit requests, the education agency has not.
“They don't respond,” DePasquale said. He hasn't decided whether to use subpoenas for information. “We have that as an option.”  Agency spokesman Tim Eller said the department has been responsive, other than a request for information that is due Dec. 9.
Sen. Mike Folmer, a Lebnaon County Republican who chaired the Senate Education Committee in the 2013-14 session, is disappointed with the lack of cooperation, said his chief of staff, Fred Sembach.  “Unless you ask the direct, right question, you don't get the answer,” Sembach said.
Needed reform: No state budget, no legislative paycheck
Lancaster Online The LNP Editorial Board Posted: Friday, December 5, 2014 6:00 am
The Issue: A bipartisan proposal set to be introduced in the state Senate calls for a suspension of pay for lawmakers, the governor, the lieutenant governor and the governor’s Cabinet if a state budget is not passed and signed into law by the June 30 deadline.
In October 2009, a Democratic governor, a state House controlled by the governor’s party and a Republican Senate tangled over Pennsylvania’s spending plan for more than 100 days.  We were the last state in the nation to pass a budget when the budget was signed on the second Friday of October that year.  Day care centers had closed. Libraries and food pantries struggled.
The state shed more than 300 employees that summer.  The Steelton-Highspire School District had to borrow more than $2.5 million to begin the 2009-10 school year.  Schools here in Lancaster County suffered losses of state payments for basic education, causing some to cut back on tutors and textbooks.  It was a mess.  All, many felt at the time, because the General Assembly and the governor couldn’t get their most essential job done on time.
Seeking to avoid a late budget next year, two senators — Randy Vulakanovich, a Republican from Allegheny County, and Rob Teplitz, a Dauphin County Democrat — have reintroduced a measure Teplitz offered last year, only to see it die in committee.

Wolf 'hopeful' that his first budget will reflect his priorities
Lancaster Online By KAREN SHUEY | Staff Writer Posted: Thursday, December 4, 2014 1:39 pm | Updated: 2:24 pm, Thu Dec 4, 2014.
Incoming Gov. Tom Wolf will face a large GOP majority and $2 billion budget deficit when it takes office next month, but he still thinks he can deliver his campaign promises.  “I have every hope that I can make real progress on the issues,” he said Thursday afternoon in a conference call with reporters.  But, he said, his administration will need to know how feasible it will be before they can start talking about how they will address challenges.  Despite saying several times during the call that the state needs to live within its means, Wolf said residents should expect to see a shift toward his priorities in his first budget.

"I want to have an administration that reflects the diversity of the population of Pennsylvania. “First of all, I want really good qualified people who are inspired to serve the Commonwealth. In my  charging presentation this morning to the steering committee I talked about three things: policy expertise in the areas I think are important, education, infrastructure, natural resources. “Second I want people who are inspired to do great things for Pennsylvania who actually see some virtue in Pennsylvania. We are serving the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and not any other state. We have some remarkable virtues and I want people who are wise to those virtues. “And third, I want to see people themselves as stewards of a grand democratic tradition. I am not just looking for technocrats. I am looking for people who are confident and recognize the role they have to play in sustaining and nurturing and growing our democracy."
Gov.-Elect Wolf Expects To Name Agency Transition Committees Within 10 Days DECEMBER 4, 2014
In a conference call with media on Thursday, Gov.-elect Tom Wolf and Transition Steering Committee Chair John Fry said they are in the final stages of vetting agency transition committee members and should be in a position to name them in seven to 10 days. Members of the Transition Steering Committee will be assigned agencies and oversee  agency transition committees that will be asking what the most pressing issues are for each agency and ways they can be addressed.  The goal is to have agency reports delivered before the inauguration.
As a point of comparison, Gov. Corbett named 400 member agency transition teams on November 30, 2010. When asked about the potential for a lame duck session in January before he takes office, Wolf said he will be inaugurated Governor on January 20 and he does not controls things between now and then.

PA-Gov: Wolf Briefs Reporters on Transition Process
PoliticsPA Written by Nick Field, Managing Editor December 4, 2014
Governor-Elect Tom Wolf held a conference call today to discuss how the transition process has been going.  Wolf and Transition Chair John Fry gave short statements and took questions for about fifteen minutes.  In his opening statement, Wolf laid out the three priorities for his transition team: 1.Identify Pennsylvania’s challenges 2. Find good people to address those challenges 3. Inspire those people to want to serve the commonwealth.  “The goal is to have a team in place so that I can hit the ground running on January 20th when I’m inaugurated as Governor,” Wolf said.

Gov.-elect Tom Wolf talks cabinet secretaries, lame-duck legislature and transition
By Christian Alexandersen | on December 04, 2014 at 1:44 PM, updated December 04, 2014 at 1:45 PM
Gov-elect Tom Wolf takes office in less than two months, but until then there's a lot of work that needs to be done.  Wolf and his transition team chairman John Fry spoke with media organizations on a conference call Thursday to discuss the governor-elect's transition into the state's highest office.  The conference call covered a number of topics including cabinet appointments, transition information and how he plans to work with a Republican-controlled General Assembly.  Here is a Q&A with information on what Wolf discussed during Thursday's conference call:

Gov.-elect Wolf names trusted advisers, Democratic bigwigs to transition team
Trib Live By Melissa Daniels Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014, 11:15 p.m.
Gov.-elect Tom Wolf is preparing to take office with a little help from Western Pennsylvanians, former Democratic administration bigwigs and his trusted advisers.  Since winning the governor's office on Nov. 4, Wolf, 66, of York County has assembled a transition team with experts from across the state in higher education, nonprofits, labor and law. The team will help him assemble his cabinet and understand the scope of challenges facing state government, including a projected $2 billion deficit in his first budget.  “My goal is to make sure that when I get to Harrisburg and am inaugurated as governor, that I'm ready to get to work, and that there's as few hindrances to my getting to work as possible,” Wolf said.
Political insiders: 'Compromise' is key to Gov.-elect Tom Wolf's gubernatorial success
Penn Live By Christian Alexandersen | on December 04, 2014 at 10:15 AM, updated December 04, 2014 at 10:26 AM
Gov.-elect Tom Wolf will be starting his term on the heels of two legislative sessions that's had some of the largest number of bills passed in the last 20 years. Which leaves people wondering how his agenda will fare with a Republican majority.  The Pennsylvania General Assembly passed 682 general legislation bills duringGov. Tom Corbett's four years in office. More bills were passed in Corbett's single, four-year term than during any of the individual terms for the last four governors.  In order to take advantage of the legislature's willingness to pass bills, the incoming governor must be willing to compromise, according to G. Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin and Marshall College.
"The Republicans in control and the governor have to reach an accommodation," Madonna said. "And that means trade."  The best indicator for determining how effective Wolf will be as a governor, Madonna said, will be how much he will compromise with Republicans. So far, Wolf has been praised for reaching out to the GOP leadership.

EDITORIAL: Now reality is an option?
York Dispatch POSTED:   12/04/2014 01:47:49 PM EST
Gov.-elect Tom Wolf didn't need to hold a press conference Wednesday to highlight the financial mess he's inheriting from outgoing Gov. Tom Corbett.  A majority of people are well aware of Corbett's mismanagement as Pennsylvania's top executive.
It's why the Republican is "outgoing" after a single term.
However, we don't blame Wolf for not holding his tongue.
Hours earlier, Corbett's budget secretary, Charles Zogby, had suggested the state is out of options, and "folks are in for a reality check" next budget season.
No kidding?  Don't forget your hat, Mr. Zogby ...
The only folks avoiding reality for the past few years have been Corbett and his enablers — and the sooner they're gone, the better.  These people knew state revenue was falling short.
They knew they were cutting to the bone in education, social services and other spending.
And they knew the situation was so dire credit rating agencies were threatening to downgrade Pennsylvania's bond rating.
What did they do?  Nothing.

Here's hoping lawmakers make the right choices on pension reform: Michael Sobol
PennLive Op-Ed   By Michael Sobol on December 04, 2014 at 2:00 PM
On Nov. 23, incoming Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, told CBS-21's "Face the State" program that he supports reducing payments into the state's public pension funds and would move future hires into a 401(k)-style retirement program.  Corman is pushing the same "short-sighted" viewpoints of Governor Corbett whose education plans the public sounded rejected in November's election.  Maybe we and Corman need to reflect upon the history of how the pension reached its present debt.  Founded in 1917, the PSERS pension never failed to meets it obligations. As recently as 2001 the funding level was 123 percent. That year, Corman voted for the 50% increase just for legislators while 25 percent went to state workers and educators.  Tony May, a panelist on the program, asked Corman about his vote for the pension increases. Corman defensively said he couldn't anticipate two recessions happening in the last decade.

Despite budget cuts, students reap essential lessons at Philly's Saul farm school
Isaiah Orellana's school day starts early, hours-before-dawn early.
"I get up at 5 o'clock. I shower. I clean up after my dogs, whatever mess they made, and then commute to school," he said.  It's a commute that would daunt many adults.
Leaving his Juniata Park home, Orellana catches the El to the Frankford terminal, and then begins a 60-minute ride aboard a bus specifically designed to shuttle North Philly kids to one of the Philadelphia School District's most unique options: Saul High School for Agricultural Sciences in Roxborough.  "I heard it was an agricultural school, and I was really interested. I said, 'You know what, I like animals. Let me see what this is about,'" said Orellana. "And when they took me on the tour, I was just like, 'Wow, I really like this. They have a farm. They have animals. They have a meat lab. And then just a regular school on top of that. This is great.'"
Orellana, a junior who aims to become a veterinarian technician, said the school – with its lush farmland and grazing livestock overlooking the Wissahickon woods – takes him a world away from the urban landscapes he's known.

Questions over charter school payments to contractor
EMPLOYEES AT Olney Charter School are questioning the payment of thousands of dollars to a contractor hired to paint the school because they say they do not recollect that a contractor ever did work at Olney.  According to invoices from the school, ASPIRA Inc. of Pennsylvania, the North Philadelphia charter-school operator that manages Olney, paid $163,365 to Lyon Contracting Inc. to paint the school in 2011. But employees who recently learned of the payments say school janitors and building maintenance workers performed the work.
The Daily News interviewed 10 current and former employees who worked at Olney or ASPIRA around the time Lyon billed for the work. Each recounted what happened inside the school on the condition that their names not be published, citing fear of retaliation from ASPIRA.

Discipline, Disabilities, School to Prison, Disproportionality
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia
Saturday, December 13, 2014 from 8:30 AM to 3:00 PM
United Way Building 1709 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, 19103
Presenters include Sonja Kerr; Howard Jordan, ACLU; Dr. Karolyn Tyson; Michael Raffaele, Frankel & Kershenbaum, LLC
This session is designed to assist participants to understand the specifics of the federal IDEA disciplinary protections, 20 U.S.C. §1415(k) as they apply to children with disabilities. Topics will include functional behavioral assessment, development of positive behavioral support programs for children with disabilities, manifestation reviews and avoiding juvenile court involvement. 
Questions? Email or call 267.546.1317.

January 23rd–25th, 2015 at The Science Leadership Academy, Philadelphia
EduCon is both a conversation and a conference.
It is an innovation conference where we can come together, both in person and virtually, to discuss the future of schools. Every session will be an opportunity to discuss and debate ideas — from the very practical to the big dreams.

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